WWW: Día de los Muertos: Honor, Celebrate & Reconnect With the Dead

http://www.epilogue.net/cgi/database/art/view.pl?id=130858Día De Los Muertos: think it’s the Mexican version of Halloween? Think again. This unique holiday is really a day to honor, celebrate and reconnect with the deceased. Scholars trace this celebration back to an Aztec holiday honoring the goddess Mictecacihuatl , who is the ruler of the underworld and the deceased (think Hades but far cooler because she co-rules the underworld with her dead hubby Mictlantecuhtli). Nowadays, Mexicans have fused this holiday with their Catholic traditions making for a completely unique celebration. Sugar skulls, altars, skeletons, marigolds… I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather celebrate the dead that way than dressing up as the female version of Robin Hood.

What’s great about The Day of the Dead is the teaching experience it offers: it’s relatively well known in the U.S. so as to be recognizable, but still enough of a mystery to be engaging. I would venture to guess that most kids don’t actually know what it’s about, where it came from, why it’s important and what we can learn from it.
Well, no more! For today’s WWW, I’ve included a great lesson plan created by a professor over at CalStateLA. Technically the lesson plan requires a full month, which works out because Día de Los Muertos is Nov. 1 and 2nd (… conveniently coinciding with Catholic All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day…). However, it’s an easy enough lesson plan to cut down if you don’t have a full month to devote to the deceased.

“This unit is designed with individual lesson plans that come together in a holistic way to integrate an overall understanding of the Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos. The unit components are organized in a deductive teaching sequence, beginning with a general conceptual understanding of Mexico, followed by an exploration of the specific details, traditions and activities that take place in the holiday that will be analyzed in depth. This unit will include various lessons ranging from language arts, geography, history, literature reading, and visual arts. It will also incorporate the use of writing journals, where the students will be required to describe what they learn about throughout the course.” (From Dia de los Muertos teaching guide). I really like this journal idea, it gives kids a chance to engage with their thoughts, questions and feelings. Maybe you could put it together as a Día de los Muertos Classroom book at the end of the lesson!
This unit is comprehensive including suggestions for videos, books, activities and a grading rubric.

Keep up with the WWW posts for this month, they’ll all be about different Día de los Muertos teaching tools. Also, I know Katrina has posted some around Albuquerque activities here.

Bonus!: Did you know La Calavera Catrina (the iconic skeleton shown above) was originally created by Mexican printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada in 1910? Share that as your next cocktail ice breaker and people will give you the, “Wow! How the heck did you know that look?” Then you can send them here.

Visit the LAII’s website to view and download our complete thematic guide on Día de los Muertos.

Your Deceased Honorer,


7 thoughts on “WWW: Día de los Muertos: Honor, Celebrate & Reconnect With the Dead

  1. THANK you for this, Ailesha. The recent “upspike” in dia de los muertos-related interest is great up here in the States, but folks seem to believe that–yep–the occasion goes as far as being “Mexican Halloween,” something to do with rockabilly music and/or “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” or (and this is my favorite), “Latin Voodoo.” O.o

    Great post, and wonderfully educational.

    • Thank you Comrade! “Latin Voodoo” ha! Please feel free to share this with anyone you know celebrating Dia de los Muertos.
      Your blog and artwork are awesome!! Keep up the good work!

      • Ailesha,

        No kidding, right?! That one killed me! I made a sculpt for a friend’s birthday a few years ago, which I was quite proud of: I proceeded to watch as he unwrapped it, and–in perfect, slow-motion–took in the confused and horrified faces of his other party guests.

        “Why,” one girl asked, clearly disturbed. “Would you give someone a VOODOO DOLL of themselves for their birthday?” XD

        Yikes, right? In any case, thank you so much for the kind words, and–again–for the awesome post!


  2. Hello, all,

    Since Ailesha was kind enough to bring in a José Guadalupe Posada reference, I thought I’d chime in, too, and mention that the University of New Mexico has an entire free digital collection of images from Posada. Check them out here: http://elibrary.unm.edu/cswr/posada/. It may be worth showing your students some of these 400+ images. They’re a nice complement to the always-popular Posada prints that have made it into general circulation.


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